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American Samoa sides ready for battle at XIV Pacific Games
The men's and women's squads both feature 17 players and Football Federation American Samoa (FFAS) president Iuli Alex Godinet says they have put in plenty of effort in the build-up to New Caledonia 2011.
“We are happy with the squads and commend our CEO Tavita Taumua, his staff and the coaching staff for their hard work in training our men and women’s teams,” Iuli says. “These are our best teams available and we hope they will bring their best out on the field in New Caledonia.”
The men's team has been drawn in Group A and will meet Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Guam, New Caledonia and Vanuatu while the women are also in Group A of their tournament and will face Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Tahiti.
The men's squad was finally complete when overseas-based goalkeeper Nicky Salapu joined the line-up in mid-August. He pulled on the gloves for the team’s final warm-up game against club side Black Roses and recorded a clean sheet as the national squad won 3-0.
Coach Iofi Lalogafuafua has plenty of youthful talent at his disposal in the form of several players that starred for American Samoa at the OFC U-20 Championship in Auckland during April, namely Suani Uelese, Frederick Charles Uhrle, Ismael D’Angelo Herrera, Moe Casper Kuresa and Daru Taumua and Shalom Luani. The latter also took part in January's OFC U-17 Championship in Auckland.
Four players - Liatama Amisone, Rafe Tala Luvu, Chin Fu Ta’ase and Edgar Apulu - will be representing their country for the first time.
But there is just as much experience in the ranks with six players - Terrence Sinapati, Travis Sinapati, John Saelua, Uasila’a Heleta, Natia Natia and Pesamino Victor - returning from the squad that competed at the last Pacific Games four years ago in Samoa.
Amisone will wear the captain’s armband while his vice-captains are Heleta and Terrence Sinapati.
“We’ve been training very hard and are looking for a good result out here in New Caledonia,” coach Lalogafuafua says.
In contrast, the women's team has only two survivors - sisters Filiga and Meleane Ioapo - from the previous Games campaign and coach Uinifareti Aliva will have to rely heavily on the enthusiasm of his young players.
A little more than half the squad have experience of representing their country after competing in the 2010 OFC Women's U-20 Championship but there are eight newcomers to the international scene in Lela Waetin, Kristina Vernes, Ava Mana’o, Elma Mana’o, Lynn Tualaulelei, Julliam Muasau, Nikki Tolmie and Tasi Alailesulu.
“One good thing that I am looking to get out of this tournament is experience because a lot of our players are very young,” Aliva says. “Our girls are very excited though and will only get better with the experience of this competition.”
Those expected to be key figures include defender Filiga Ioapo, who was nominated for the OFC Women’s Player of the Year award in 2009, and Sancia Sopoaga, who was named best goalkeeper of the OFC Women’s U-20 Championship in New Zealand last year. Ioapo's sister Meleane is also a multiple MVP award-winner for domestic competitions, from high school to national league level.
But the team will be missing two important players in Beulah Oney and LaToya Grey. The talented pair trained with the team for months before heading off to the United States to study at Bacone College in Oklahoma and were unable to be excused from their commitments to take part in the Games.
“They have sent their regards and best wishes to our team and we will miss them very much,” CEO Taumua says. “We know in our hearts they are there with us and will once again don an American Samoa jersey in the near future.”.
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